December 2002

Friday 27th December
After a very  hectic time of moving and Christmas etc, we left Birchcroft at around 9.15am.  I thought it was far too late, considering the Christmas sales were on. We got stuck in a jam on the M2 with a 4 mile queue to Bluewater but with a bit of welly we managed to reach Stansted at about 11am. We parked the car, caught the bus to the airport and checked in straight away. We then did a bit of shopping before going through to our boarding gate.

Mal bought a PC notebook to try out.  Perhaps I should mention at this point that you can purchase an item from Dixon’s at Stansted (tax free), if it is not satisfactory then you can return it to any branch of Dixon’s within 90 days and you will be given a full refund.   This is the third time we have tried this, the first was a world radio that really did not work well in TRNC and the next time a palmtop, which Mal decided this was no good because the keyboard didn’t work and the version of word was not good.  Duly, we returned them to Margate and they refunded our money. However I digress, Mal had with him his USB key Christmas present.

Didn’t have too much time to spare as the plane left on time. Stopped at Izmir.   North Cyprus is 2 hours ahead of us in time. We arrived at Getikele at about 10pm, local time. Bought cigarettes, £7.50 for 200.  Lira is about 2.64m=£1.  It seemed a long journey to the Hideaway but when we got here we were taken to our Connoisseur garden suite, room number 1.  Really nice and all the heaters were on ready for us.  We didn’t even unpack but went straight down to the bar and had a brandy sour and an Efes and were given toasted sandwiches. Back to room, unpacked and got to bed about 1.15 am.

Saturday 28th December
We didn’t wake up until 10 am so, in frantic rush, we threw some clothes on and caught breakfast before it finished at 10.30. We also had to hand our tickets to the rep (should be 10 am).  We managed it, as our rep was sitting in the bar.  Good breakfast with a choice.

Booked in at reception and met the co-owners Alf and Oya (?).   Said that if there was anything we needed just to let them know.  Back to the room and played with the laptop a bit, bathed, showered etc and lazed for a bit!

Mal then decided to get the real show on the road and start things moving as soon as possible.  He called Guy who had some fairly good news (but we never hold our breath).  The executors have now paid their death duties (apparently is the word that Mal is using). Guy is going to Nicosia on Monday to get the final piece of paper, which is the proof of the payment of the duties and Guy is going to pay the rates (which had previously been paid by John Torris!), they are £3 (oh no they weren’t and oh no he didn’t), and we are going to reimburse him.  We will see Guy on Monday.  Next the phone call to Hakan.  We explained what Guy had said.  He told us that once the paperwork has been received and we have paid the tax, then Selcuk fills in the forms for change of ownership and the transfer of the deeds into our names.  This should take about 7 days but Hakan knows people in the Land office and he may be able to speed this through (!!!). We have to ring Hakan on Monday morning to arrange to meet him in the afternoon to sort out the orientation of the land.  So, at least now we have (apparently) got things moving. Perhaps Sunday can now be an easy day.

Mal suggested that we went to find a rental car but I thought it was better to leave this until Monday (or we will never walk anywhere)  So, we decided to walk down to Karalanawhatsit where we bought some food and drink and then walked back.  The walk was fine until we got to the last little bit uphill when it really pulls on the muscles on the back of your legs.

Later we ate in the poolside bar and then had a few drinks, pretty good Brandy Sours.

Sunday 29th December
We seemed to spend most of this day just spacing out, I think the last few weeks, with moving and phone calls over here chasing the documents caught up with us a little.  We did have a short walk behind the hotel and managed to find somewhere to have dinner but that was about it.  The pair of us kept nodding off, recharging our batteries for the onslaught ahead.  It was a cloudy, rainy day anyway, so we felt we hadn’t lost much.  We did speak to Alf to see if he could get us a hire car.

Monday 30th December
Batteries recharged and ready to go, out hire car arrived at 9:45am, from Pine Bay.  A new Corsa for £15 a day, including CDW.  Then went to have breakfast just as the rain came down with a vengeance.  As we left the restaurant Manuel (our name for him, so use your imagination) came chasing after us with an umbrella, courtesy of the hotel, but we were assured that the sun will be out tomorrow!

We called Hakan and mutually agreed owing to the weather, that Thursday would be a more favourable day to go on the land for the orientation.

So, we drive into Girne and to see Selcuk. He just says he is waiting for the ‘piece of paper’, yes we all are but, having spoken to Guy on Saturday, this should have been in our hands by this afternoon at the latest so the next step was to go and see Guy.  His office has now expanded since our last visit, obviously the volume of prospective purchasers!  Guess what? He hasn’t been to Lefkosa with ‘the man’ to get the piece of paper we need as ‘the man’ was too busy doing a job.  This we could understand had we not been waiting since September 26th for this piece of paper. A ‘debate’ then ensued between Mal and Guy, trying to establish why he has not yet paid the death duties on the land.  According to Guy he is an ‘untidy man’ by which we understood to mean that his affairs were no way in order and after all what incentive was there for him to sort this out, he has our money so what is the rush. Guy then told us they would be going to Lefkosa tomorrow.  At this point, Mal said he didn’t believe that the man had any intention of going and sorting it out and in fact he was now thinking of calling it all off and getting our money back and £5,000 compensation before it all drags on for another 2 years or so.  I was a little taken aback by this but what can we do?

We then went along to Stringers and talked to Julie, who was astounded at what had happened, saying that it usually took 2 weeks (that is what we thought too). Julie then asked us if we had held any money back, no we hadn’t, were advised by Guy and our (his) solicitor, that you pay the money and then checks are done and then the land is yours.  Simple. We then started looking at what ready built properties they have on their books, some of which Hakan was building for them.  This now has to be considered.  Julie very kindly said that she would speak to their solicitor this afternoon as she was seeing her anyway and see what options we have.

A little disheartened we drove up to the land and remembered why this patch was our dream, we clambered up the muddy ‘driveway’ and even in the rain it looked lovely.  All we could hear was the birds singing and nothing else, OK there were clouds at the top of the mountains and we were getting wet but we are still holding on to that dream.  What do they say?  Nothing worth waiting for ever comes easy but having just gone through a 5 day gap between exchange and completion (on Sevenscore) the week before Christmas and threatening three times to pull out, we had hoped for a little more luck with this.  Our October holiday was wasted with visits here there and everywhere and we are really hoping we are not going to have the same happen again.  Well we won’t, something will have to be done this time.   We will be seeing Stringer’s entourage tomorrow as they are all here at the Hideaway and we have already had a disclaimer from Julie for what she may say or do or the way she may behave (New Years Eve).  We will just have to catch her at the beginning of the evening to see what the solicitor said. Let’s hope that the New Year brings us the news we want to hear.

Mal  has just got the contract out to check it and is says ‘it is a condition of this contract that the property is freehold and at the time of completion is free of any encumbrances……a breech of this condition will constitute a breach of this contract……………….giving effect to clause 7 of this contract. (clause 2).  Clause 4 says ‘Within 14 days from the date of decision of the council of Ministers granting permission for the purchasers to buy the said property, the transfer of the title deeds shall be effected’. Clause 7 says ‘if any of the parties to this contract fail to comply with their obligations (they) will pay to the other party £5,000 as agreed damages as well as the court expenses.’  Our conclusion now is that the fella is refusing to give us the paperwork and he is now in breach of contract (but we discovered later that taking him to court would take years, and probably would still fail – makes you wonder why we bothered with a solicitor).

November 2002

Friday 1st November
Our rep called and said that we were on the earlier plane going home… no we are not! She has already checked our tickets and returned them to us.  We know CTA overbook their planes but they can find another mug to change planes because we aren’t!!!  She then arrived to take our tickets and we wouldn’t give them to her and a full row ensued with us saying that we are not going on the later plane.  She left saying we would have to get the earlier plane, and that was that.  So, we ended up calling Osman in London who said he would sort it out for us.

Arranged to meet Hakan at the land at 1pm and he said he was bringing the main tapu man who had just retired but he knows every bit of land on the island.  Yes, did he (or so we thought).  He looked for one of main markers (marked by a stone????? Or some old relic!)  He could not find the one on our land, he said it had probably been destroyed by the bulldozer levelling the land. He did find another marker on the land next to ours and then measured from there.  He was excellent (or so we thought he was) but every time we saw his tape measure cutting away a bit more of our land where we planned to have the house, I felt more and more miserable (if only we had realised at the time that he’d added a bit of next door’s land).  Yes, we were right, the ledge is part of our land and pretty useless at that!  We have decided now the land looks more like a boomerang than a boot so will have to change the name from Cesme.  Having said that it looks as though we may own a bit of the road as well so I suppose we could always put a tollgate up!  Hakan assured us the house would still fit in where we want it but we won’t have quite so much garden. This isn’t so bad as we have had second thoughts about maintaining so much garden.  We still have room for a large enough hard stand for cars (oh no we haven’t) and have access (may or may not be ours, if not it is the governments and they have stolen some of ours for the new road, so we see it as quits and were told the Turkish Cypriots see it that way too – unfortunately we found out later that the access belongs to someone).  Both of us are totally exhausted.

Back to hotel where we received a phone call from our rep, yes we would be on the later flight (good old Osman… from Travel world that is, a good company.)

Saturday 2nd November
Really hot, and so we sat by the pool. Returned the jeep about 1.00pm and bought Turkish delight to fill our cases.  Caught the dolmus back.  I love it, all the locals cramming on and anywhere you want to go, just shout and they stop and all for about 40p!  Great system.

Spent our last evening talking to Sam.

Sunday 3rd November
Alarm call at 4am. Taken to the temporary airport.  Back on the plane.  Awful journey.  For some reason the plane took 4¾ hours to travel from Turkey to the UK, and that was without the stopover time at Antalya and the flight from Cyprus.  We were both knackered and felt we had achieved very little.  Better luck hopefully in December.

September 2002

Monday 2nd September
We met Hakan again and he had amended the contract which we then signed, with Phil as witness…….phew!!!!!!!!

We are hoping that our permission to purchase will come through when we return on the 27th October and the land and the house positions will be staked out ready for the footings to go in while we are still there… if you are still with me well done!!!!!!!  We did actually enjoy ourselves although it was hard work and stressful, but I am sure there is far worse to come. We will have to visit every available holiday in order to keep a check on the progress of the house.

Wednesday 25th September
We have been told that we now have permission to purchase. This is a strange system where you wait 6 months just to find out whether you are allowed to buy! The contracts are written so that if permission is refused then your deposit is returned, or alternatively you could put the property in trust with your solicitor acting as trustee.

Monday 2nd September
We met Hakan again and he had amended the contract which we then signed, with Phil as witness…….phew!!!!!!!!

We are hoping that our permission to purchase will come through when we return on the 27th October and the land and the house positions will be staked out ready for the footings to go in while we are still there… if you are still with me well done!!!!!!!  We did actually enjoy ourselves although it was hard work and stressful, but I am sure there is far worse to come. We will have to visit every available holiday in order to keep a check on the progress of the house.

Wednesday 25th September
We have been told that we now have permission to purchase. This is a strange system where you wait 6 months just to find out whether you are allowed to buy! The contracts are written so that if permission is refused then your deposit is returned, or alternatively you could put the property in trust with your solicitor acting as trustee.

August 2002

Wednesday 14th August
Well, here it is the saga of the next stage of our house purchase!

We arrived at the LA Hotel (CTA – Cyprus Turkish Airlines- having changed our hotel 2 weeks before our departure!) at about midnight (3 hour delay going out there).  No food (even though we had booked half board!) so Mal had a go at them and then we did get fed.  Having booked a villa, to say that we were disappointed with our accommodation was a gross understatement.  So, we decided then and there we would not be staying and crawled into bed without unpacking our suitcases.  Our rep was due at 10 so we waited for her and told her that we were not staying as the room was awful and we had booked a villa and that was what we wanted.  Please note at this stage that there was a big notice on the wall of the room saying that NO food or drink was to be brought into the hotel, in other words, pay quadruple the price to buy it from the hotel!  Yeah right!

Olga, our rep arrived and we told her we were not staying and she would have to find us a villa.  There were a few villas at this location but it appeared that the air con had packed up and as it was about 43oC we decided we didn’t want to roast in their villas.  It would be fixed by Friday, we were told, (this being Wednesday) but Mal reminded her that he knew how Cypriot workers kept to deadlines!  Please note here that the villas still had no air con when we left three weeks later!  Wise move not going into one of those.  Olga told us there were no villas available on the island as it was peak season.  Like we believed her!  Then the Manager of the hotel came out and asked what the problem was and we said it was nothing to do with him, this was CTA’s problem, they had messed up the booking.  Anyway, he took us into his office and said he would like us to stay and offered us his personal suite.  He took us up there to see if it was suitable, it had a large fridge, and he told us we could bring anything we liked into the hotel!! This certainly was more like it so we agreed.  All through our stay, whenever he saw us, he kept checking everything was OK.  Nice man, very nice man.

Thursday 15th August
We went into Stringers Estate Agency to see the owners, Phil and Tracy (English).  They are a young couple who tried to find us some land in April. They are also building their own house and as they are further ahead of us we thought they would be helpful in giving us advice. Every time you ask people a question out there you get about 10 different answers! At least we knew with them that they had gone through the stages so would be up to date with the current situation.  The first bit of useful info was that you can get the land permission speeded up if you paid extra fees!! We also asked them if they knew of any architects and builders they could recommend

Friday 16th August
We were introduced to a really nice builder called Musa.  Shame about his architect!!!!!  Prior to seeing his architect Musa was helpful and took us up to the land and we tried once again to work out its boundaries, for those of you who have forgotten or who have not been told, our land is shaped like a boot and is on varying levels so it is difficult to establish where it begins and ends! On going to see the land we were very impressed that since our last visit the government had replaced the bumpy pot holed road with a new tarmac one but we were not too impressed that they had gouged out the edge of our land to make some of it!   One of the problems with this entire boundaries saga is that the land registry map we had is about 80 years old and some of the roads have moved.

That evening Musa’s architect, Mehmet, and Ahmet from the land registry met us on site. Mehmet and Ahmet had a disagreement as to where the boundaries were and a full blown argument ensued in the middle of the road. I think you could say that it was about to become pistols at dawn.  Musa I think, bless him, tried to translate to cover his embarrassment.   They were each telling the other not to tell them what their job was and not to question it and that each was an idiot and not to show them up in front of us!  This must have gone on for about half an hour with us standing on the sidelines twiddling our thumbs.  In the end Mehmet stormed off saying he was doing nothing until the land had been staked out.  It was agreed that Ahmet would return and stake out the land.

We were told the weather changes on 15th August and tomorrow would be winter!  They were right; it cooled down to about 35oC and a very pleasant breeze.

Saturday 17th August
We met Hakan, another architect recommended by Tracey and Phil. His wife is a Civil Engineer and he has his own builders…this sounds more like it!  He took us to view the land and then onto to some holiday home projects that he was doing.  We were quite impressed.

Sunday 18th August
We were supposed to be meeting Musa and Ahmet (land registry) to go and stake the land out but Musa arrived saying he could not get hold of Ahmet, his mobile was off. We were a bit pee-ed off by this but found out later that poor Ahmet had been in a car accident and written his Pajero off (that’s a car).  He was OKish, which was the main thing, but obviously not working!

Tuesday 20th August
Went to see Selcuk (our solicitor substitute) to get our land application number but he wasn’t there. Returned to the land with Mehmet, Musa and Phil. Had a good walk around and seemed to be getting a better idea of what was and was not ours, and the positioning of the house.  Phil was a big help and said he wished he had bought this parcel of land and it seems to have increased in value by about 10K since we bought it.  Kept being told to mind the snakes. We were not sure whether they were referring to the reptile family or to the human kind.

Wednesday 21st August
In between all this we did get to use the hotel beach in the mornings and do a lot of swimming, eating and drinking!

We went to see Mehmet in his offices and talked designs and prices.  This resulted in Mal running out of his offices saying quick get in the jeep before he sees me laughing! The reason for this was the fact he told us he wanted £700 for preliminary drawings (which we could do on a ncomputer!), £2,200 for submitting the drawings and another £2,200 to oversee the project!  He has obviously already worked with a lot of ‘stupid’ English people and thought we would follow suit! We immediately decided he was not the one for us which was a shame because we knew we could have worked with Musa.  I think Phil is going to suggest to him that he changes architects.

We then spent a lot of time, with the help of a newly purchased graph pad, deciding what it was that we wanted.

Thursday 22nd August

Mal drew to scale what we thought we wanted, with the help of counting out the squares on the floor of our suite!!!!!! This was hard work. ‘Do you want the kitchen this big or this big’ (as Mal paced out the squares!!) Then of course we ended up with the bathroom facing onto the pool etc etc.

Met Hakan again and he had some good ideas, like high ceilings (cooler in the summer) and to put beams in the ceilings and also to have a bay window at the front of the property to catch the winter sun. This room is to be the winter lounge/study/third bedroom.  Also we decided on arches internally to cut out a lot of the wasted space for corridors.  He definitely appeared to be on our wavelength.

We left Hakan and went back to try and track Selcuck down so we could get our land permission number.  We were successful this visit, it is number 125.  It appears 99 has not yet gone through but 150 has, so we enlisted the help of Phil who knows a man…

Friday 23rd August
Seemed like at last we were getting somewhere and so decided to have a day off.  We drove to Bellapais Abbey (my favourite place) and had lunch up there in the grounds.  Remember, this is peak season and yet there were only about two other couples up there.  In the evening we went out to dinner and went to see Tanner who owns Cesme restaurant.  This was the first place we ever went to during our first visit and we go back and visit him every time and he is always seems so pleased to see us.  He does THE best meze (about £10 for both of us including drinks, Turkish coffee etc!) He seemed pleased that we are moving out there.

Saturday 24th August
More house designing, this time thinking of lighting etc.

Sunday 25th August
Mal discovered Kilkenny (beer!) a close relation to Guinness which he said was a relief from the ‘fizzy’ Effes.

Tuesday 27th August
Back to Stringers to meet Hakan again. Phil had some news concerning our land. ‘It had been held up’. We are now both wondering what we paid the solicitor £700 for? But the process is now starting to move again (this ‘moving’ is actually bits of paper being passed from one desk to another in the land registry!)

Hakan had the preliminary plans but, as asked, he had enquired about the electricity to the site (originally we were told that the pole right next to our land was electricity but this trip we discovered it was the phone line!) and as we half expected it was going to be expensive, it didn’t come as too much of a shock to Mal (but it did to me!)… £10,000 to bring it to our land!   I think my jaw was still touching the ground as we left the office.  However Hakan’s drawings were good and we made some alterations, like incorporating a utility room and having folding doors on the winter lounge so that the room could be left open in the summer.

Wednesday 28th August
We decided to drive to Guzelyurt where we found a furniture shop with ridiculously cheap good furniture.  This was a funny experience because the assistants couldn’t speak English and our Turkish is very limited but at least we learnt masa is table etc.  It appears with everything you buy you get a free TV!!  We are seriously thinking now of buying a lot of furniture out there as everything we take we will have to pay import duty of 2%, 3%, 13%, 16% or 19%, again depending on who you are talking to.  Along with these variations on taxes etc, there will be an election out there this month and they tend to change the laws then, so all may change!

Thursday 29th August
Along with the drawings, Hakan had produced a ‘contract’ in the loosest sense of the term.  Not quite the spec we were hoping for.  So today was spent drafting our own contract. We went to the Internet cafe with Mal typing it up to the smallest detail we could think of and meanwhile I was searching the net for folding doors as Hakan didn’t quite understand what we meant.   The Internet was so slow you would not believe it.

Friday 30th August
Turkish Independence Day – lots of flags everywhere and celebrating and fireworks.

Met Hakan again, having emailed him our version of what we thought the contract should contain!  I was a bit nervous about it all and this was a heavy meeting with lots of bargaining between Mal and Hakan.  Mal has cleverly included the electricity connection to be Hakan’s responsibility (now I think we are down to about £8,500!) but then mains water will be another £1,500, also included in his responsibilities. Having said that, Hakan had amended that we supply the folding doors as he doesn’t understand them (oh yeah, we take them over in our suitcases??!) So we compromised and are now having a bit of wall each side and double opening doors to the winter lounge… now his responsibility!  So the contract now had masses of crossings out and amendments but although this is much more than we first originally planned we have decided to go the whole hog and get Hakan to do a swimming pool too and the drive etc. I just kept telling myself not to think about the money.  Mal also wrote into the contract that the last phase was to be complete by 15 August 2003 so we can holiday in it next summer (sleeping on lilos I think!)  I am not holding my breath.

Saturday 31st August
A bit of light relief, went into have a chat with Phil and Tracy and they told us to go up and see a hotel, The Hideaway where they are spending Christmas and the New Year, and asked if we wanted to join them there for New Year.  So we went to see it and Lynn showed us one of the suites.  What luxury.  It really is like a Country club AND you get served your choice of 6 breakfasts on your balcony when you phone for it! We seemed to have forgotten that we were talking about December and Janbuary.

8 – Design and Build a Villa

Design and Build a Villa

So we bought 2000 m2 of land with indeterminate borders and wanted to build an 165 m2 villa on it plus a pool. The first step was determining what we wanted inside the villa and then to decided the layout. The first step was relatively simple; 3 bedrooms, one en-suite, a lounge, a dining room a kitchen, a guest bathroom, a utility room and a large undercover terrace. Out came the graph paper and as we were staying in a hotel with 30 cm square tiles on the floor we could see the size of the room by using these tiles to mark out its area.

We had been told that it would cost about �300 per m2 and our villa budget was �50,000 so changing the size of the villa was out of the question. We quickly discovered that we would have to sacrifice either one of the rooms or reduce their size if we were to stay in budget. Then we had a brilliant idea, a dual use room. We decided that the dining room was to have a sliding door and a put-you-up settee which would enable it to be converted into a 3rd bedroom. Later we decided to call this south facing room the winter lounge as it would be a warmer room to sit in during the colder months. The idea was great but was spoilt by us putting the fireplace in the adjoining lounge which became a combined lounge-kitchen-diner.

The lounge then stretched from the front to the back of the house so that the constant sea breeze could cool the house. Added to this, by positioning the pool between the sea and the house, the breeze would be additionally cooled as is the common practice for Moroccan houses. We had two small windows set into the side of the front door to help this process. It is also worth noting that our front door is at the back of the villa, and faces the mountains in the south.

At the back of the house facing the sea we placed an 8 meter by 2 meter covered terrace which ended up being the main place we sit during the summer. One of the problems we had was positioning the pool. Ideally we wanted the pool in front of the terrace but thought there might be difficulties fitting all this into the narrow strip of land our site had become. We barely managed it but by narrowing the villa it was possible.

We then set the builder to work digging out the foundations. It is magic watching a drawing turned into reality. Concrete was poured and the outline of the villa appeared. We walked around the rooms and they appeared so tiny I had to measure them to find out that they were exactly right. Very quickly the foundations turned into walls and a roof materialised from nowhere. We received a phone call one day while we were in the UK saying the ground where the pool was to be was solid rock and the pool would have to be raised two meters. It would cost �2500 extra but we would end up with a huge terrace. The builder said that we would see what he meant when we visited.

We arrived and saw what he meant. He had already built the pool and the shuttering was up ready to concrete the terrace. We had no choice in the matter! We admitted that we liked the idea of not having to walk down two meters of steps every time we wanted to swim. We also liked the reduced risk to our four grandchildren. Our total budget was �66,000 plus another �6000 as a contingency plan which we never revealed to the builder. The costs were �48,000 for the villa, �10,000 for bringing electricity and water a few kilometres down the hill and �8000 for the 8×4 meter overflow pool.

A �2500 overspend did not seem too much to pay but then we realised that one of the problems with raising the pool 2 meters is that now we needed railings around the terrace to prevent tipsy party guests dropping off. The drawback of having a 110 m2 terrace was the �2000 cost of 40 meters of railings, bringing us �4500 over budget.

Before long fittings and fixtures began to appear, and then electricity. We did not realise at the time how miraculous this was until we heard of the length of time other people had to wait. Not only did we have electricity but our�s was not the expensive temporary kind that some people became stuck with for many months. It was then we discovered that we had neglected to add air conditioning to the contract, but as this was only �250 extra. Then we decided to have black granite worktops, another �450 extra. This brought us �5200 over budget.

We moved into the villa April 2004, a year after the building started. We ordered four tankers of water, 48 tonnes, and filled the 40 tonne pool, the balance tank and the water depot. The pool temperature was initially that of the well the water was extracted from but soon it climbed to 190C and we swam in it because it was there. It was cold but after a few minutes swimming it was bearable.

We had a visit from one of our neighbours and discovered our hardstand and access were owned by them and realised that our contingency plan would probably be breached in order to gain official access, but our villa was ready and a dream had been achieved, even if the never reached perfection had not.

Water appeared in September and plans for the first garden were made for October so our piece of land and plans had turned into a home. We looked back 2� years to when we had rushed around our plot, scratching our legs, wondering whether we would ever be able to transform it into a home. We knew there would be ups and downs but not as extreme as the black periods we had experienced when we said we would sell our building site, buy a camper van and go wandering through Spain in search of a completed house.  Seated on our terrace overlooking the Mediterranean we now knew it was all worth it.

April 2002

Somewhere To Live – Easter 2002

According to Maggie, we did not consider renting “because we’re stupid!” We knew we wanted to live in North Cyprus, we knew that in the short term we would be returning to the UK regularly and we didn’t like the idea of being at the mercy of a landlord.

We surfed the websites of local Estate Agents and ended up with a huge wad of properties that we wanted to look at, forty all together. We then arranged a holiday with a Travel Agent and, during Easter 2002, off we went to North Cyprus, full of optimism and with a clear idea of exactly what we wanted.

At first we decide that we wanted an old Cypriot house, we were impressed by their cheapness, about £35-40k. But having seen them we realised that considering the amount of work they needed doing to them we might as well buy a newly built property. Then the next problem arose, all the nice properties were in the wrong place. So, finally we decided to buy land in the right place and then build the dream house on it.

So, having been taken to see countless pieces of land, we decided on the dream site. But of course it has already been sold. No one told us but eventually someone did, but not the original estate agent, and the process of searching continued. Ahmet, Guy’s contact from the Land Office, took us around and showed us sites he thought we would like. Gradually he began to understand what we were looking for and eventually he found the perfect site: a nice square piece of land conveniently situated next to a village road. We loved it! Next day we discovered it was already sold.

Ahmet became desperate for us and showed us some “wonderful” sites: one with a group of “gypsies” living next door and one with an electrical pylon in the middle of it. Well at least getting electricity wouldn’t have been too much of a problem. Then an even more perfect site became available and, jaded and pessimistic, we decided to go for it. We were told that the site, in between Incesu and Malataya, was 1 donum 2 evleks and a bit, which equated to ½ an acre (2000 m2). On the map it looked like a cowboy boot.

Ahmet paced around the site, confidently showing us the perimeter of our land. Gradually these perimeters became bigger. The land was terraced and, according to Ahmet, consisted of several large pieces of land. The site was actually three separate plots being sold together. It was so overgrown it was difficult to make out what it was really like, but the view down the valley to the Mediterranean was stunning, and that was what we were buying. We should have realised that the area we were being shown was too big, our house and land in the UK was about 750m2 and the area that we were being shown was more than three times bigger than that. But, dreamers don’t check facts before they rush into things and the view is what we wanted so the amount of land was a little bit irrelevant.

The moment we said yes, Guy (Guray) the owner of Korinia Estate Agents, took us to a solicitor, Selcuk Gurkan. It might perhaps have been wiser to have decided on our solicitor before searching for the land. What you will find out eventually is that the word solicitor in Cyprus does not mean the same as it does in the UK. A solicitor here conveys documents through a process, and is sometimes called a Notary. Don’t expect much more than this. The Estate Agent is supposed to do whatever the solicitor feels is not theirjob. There can be some confusion here, and there was!

We agreed on a price of £15,000, which meant that we were paying £9000 a donum. We knew from our short experience that this was a fair price. The Land Purchase Contract was quickly produced, in English, and a document, in Turkish, giving Guy Power of Attorney was also signed. All this happened so fast it was as if we were in Dixon’s taking out an extended warranty on a washing machine. We then wrote out two cheques: £750 for the Solicitor and £2000 deposit, the rest of the money to be paid in two instalments within a month. Hindsight suggests that possibly we should not have been so swift to pay all the money, once the vendor has the money the incentive to get involved in the purchase decreases gradually to zero, and it did. Against this is the possibility that someone might offer to pay more quickly, at that time good plots were being snapped up and prices were rising.

We then went back to our land several times with the map we had been given and started pacing it out. We had been shown where the access to our land was supposed to be and using that point and the scaling on the map we tried to confirm the perimeter of the site and to decide where we were going to build the villa. Our original £35k limit was beginning to look unrealistic, as we had already committed £15,750 on the land. We were going bonkers trying to work out the land’s borders. There was supposed to be a surveyor’s point on the land, but this could not be found. Without this point as a reference no other point was definite. We sensibly gave up.

We then set about sketching the plan of our 3-bedroom bungalow. Somehow we managed to fit everything we wanted into 100m2! We had been told that we should expect to pay between £200-300 per m2, so using the bottom figure our bungalow should cost us £20,000. Perhaps we could build a 3-bedroom bungalow in ½ acre for £35,750! Oh, how we dreamed.

The finances were important because Mal wanted to take early retirement at 55, which meant giving up his teaching job at the end of the 2003 Summer Term. He also works for OCR as Principal Examiner and also as Moderation Team Leader. If he kept the OCR job and combined it with the early pension then we would be living on about £15,000 a year until Maggie’s pension was available in May 2010 and the rest of Mal’s pension was due in March 2013. We kept asking local Cypriots, and Brits living over here, how much they lived on. The figure of £500-600 per month kept coming back, and this was for a couple running a car and eating out once or twice a week. We also established that local wages were about £200-300 per month! This should mean a life of relative luxury for us.

Another financial consideration was the value of the two houses we owned. At that time we estimated that the 3-bedroom semi-detached rural house we had bought for £65000 in 1999 was worth £110,000 and the 3-bed terraced house we had bought for £51,000 in 2001 was worth about £65,000. From these figures we estimated that by selling the properties we could build the £35,000 bungalow and still have £40,000 capital left. Oh, how wrong we were.

So, now it was time to look for an Architect/Builder. We decided straight away that we did not want to get into a situation where these two roles would be separated so that the Architect and Builder could blame each other when things went wrong. We went to Bormat and they said they could build a beautiful 100m2 bungalow for less than £30,000, sign here please. Mehmet the Architect showed us some plans and told us that he would design the bungalow to be like the one the Stringers were building. However, the building price was now over £30,000 and the intakes of breathe were becoming sharper when the price was mentioned.

“A sharp intake of breathe” is a building phenomenon associated with builders who respond to questions like “how much will it cost?” by breathing in sharply and saying nothing. A nodding of the head often follows this action. It seems to be a universal phenomenon. Our question “could this be built for £30,000?” usually resulted in a sharp intake of breath then a “maybe”. This combination actually means “no chance!”

The Easter holiday got sillier when, having almost decided to let Bormat build our bungalow, we went for a meal in Hensons’ and after a few drinks we were introduced to John Torris, a builder/architect with an MSc and who used to play for Leyton Orient and Roma. We were a bit worried that with all this going on he might not be able to find time to build but we decided to see what he could do. Yes, he could build the bungalow for £30,000 plus 13% tax. He showed us some of his work so we decided that, subject to the contract being acceptable, he was our man. How wrong can you be!

So, at the end of the Easter holiday things seemed to be coming together. Six to nine months for the permission to purchase to be given and our builder ready to draw up contracts and draw the plans. That meant that building would start between October and January and all we’d have to do was to sign contracts and pay the instalments to our builder. We would be in our villa by August 2003. How wrong can you be!

After the holiday John Torris visited us in the UK but would not be drawn on the contract. Several emails later he still would not confirm the contract, though he did pay the vendor’s rates for him without being asked. We still don’t know why he did this or why the rates office refuses to accept that they were paid!

3 – Gypsies

Gypsies

We found the solution to our UK accommodation problem, accidentally. Driving along a country lane we were just about to pass a Caravan Park next to Manston Airport, in Thanet when on the spur of the moment we decided to pull in. In the back of our minds for a while we had been toying with the idea of buying a caravan but our first investigations led to us being told that if we wanted an all-year-round caravan the price would be in excess of �100,000.  We immediately discarded this idea, but in summer 2002 the idea returned and we found ourselves parked in Bradgate Caravan Park. We decided that we might as well ask for a second opinion.

One of the owners, Roy, explained that he had two caravans available, a 28 foot one for �8,500 and a 35 foot one for �7,000. The longer caravan was cheaper because it was older.  The rules of use were simple, you could use them for 10 � months a year, from the middle of January to the end of February the park was closed, you could not rent them out and the fees were �2,200 per year. We were amazed. We could not imagine why we would want to stay in a caravan during January and February and the fee, which included council tax and water rates, was less than we were paying for our rented accommodation. Then we discovered that our fee also included the use of a clubhouse, heated indoor swimming pool, gym, and sauna and Jacuzzi.

The only problem, we felt, would be living in a cramped caravan. We saw the smaller caravan first and were pleasantly surprised, but when we inspected the 35 foot caravan we were astounded. It included its own small maintained garden and when we entered the caravan and saw the main bedroom with double bed we abandoned our childhood memories of living in cramped holiday caravans. There was a small spare bedroom across the hall, and a toilet with a tiny bath/shower cubicle. Maggie was not too happy about that. We moved onto the small kitchen and dining area and then to the large lounge. My financial brain quickly calculated that we were, in effect, buying the caravan for �5,800 and that as our rent and other bills came to �1000 a month, we only had to live in the van for 6 months for it to be completely free.

We paid Roy the money and then thought about what we were doing. We were going to leave our large rented 4-bedroomed detached house in February and live in a caravan from March 1st 2004. In theory this sounded easy, in practice we might have made a big mistake. The kids were very happy and almost immediately started staying there. With a swimming pool for the grandchildren to play in, and with free bingo every Saturday night, who could blame them for wanted to take advantage of regular weekend visits to the �holiday camp�.

We arranged for a very expensive but, as it turned out, very efficient removal company to ship our furniture to North Cyprus and hoped that when all our worldly possessions arrived in Easter that the villa would be ready for them. As the 20th February removal date loomed it became clear that one of the problems we had not foreseen was deciding what goes where. To make matters worse, January and February were my exam time when I had a full-time day job as well as organising my exam and the few other extra jobs I�d taken on in preparation for retirement. To make matters even worse I become ill for the first-time in my life. A very embarrassing, and painful complaint, but very common I discovered, which eventually put me out of action for eight weeks. This was not the best time to move.

It was not all bad news. It was around then that I was told that because of the college�s poor financial situation they were looking for volunteers for redundancy. I was almost knocked over in the rush, but because I had managed to become overpaid and under-worked, I was top of the list. The redundancy money made the difference in my being able to retire now rather than wait another year, or two. The pain was bearable.

We returned from Cyprus, with me ill and full of painkillers, to a freezing caravan. But we didn�t care. We felt like gypsies without a care in the world, or as Rhys would put it, we were �pikey do as you likeys.�

In the end, living in a caravan was neither as difficult nor as exciting as we imagined. We did not use the facilities as much as we intended do, we attended a birthday party with free food and 50p drinks, but otherwise we sat in the lounge watching TV. Our real home was in Cyprus and until we were there we were just passing time. Then two things happened, the local airport, five minutes away, announced a new airline was opening there. EUjet, a no thrills airline, was to fly to 27 destinations including, Dublin, Nice, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Prague. This meant that we could book online at a moments notice and off we could go for a cheap long weekend. At the same time it was announced that only a walk away a large complex of shops was to open including cinemas and several major companies. A shopping paradise was about to open on our doorstep. Shopping is one of Maggie�s main hobbies and we both love to travel.

It looked like were going to have excitement and fun in Thanet for a few months of the year, whilst visiting our family and peace and quiet for the rest of the year in Cyprus.